Saturday, 7 December 2013

Stickmen at the House of Commons

There is a great company called 'Really Useful Stuff' which highlights really useful stuff from all over the place. It is great because although much is really useful for people with a range of disabilities, it doesn't have the dreadful 'hospital' feel - just cool stuff that is useful in getting round ones quirks. They also have a panel of disabled and older people or user testing, mystery shopping, product feedback etc - essential work to my mind.

They recently did a survey on how accessibility of the high street has changed over the past 5 years, and to launch their results they had a cannape reception at the House of Commons, and invited me - of course I said yes!

It is an awesomely beautiful building. And Westminister Hall, where the general public are allowed, and where you go through to watch debates and suchlike, was almost like a cathedral. And it was lovely and cool (yes, of course I lay down on one of the benches using coolness and horizontal-ness to give the best chance of keeping my POTS under control later.)

But before you reach there you first go through the main gate (having told the police the purpose of your visit.) And then down a ramp to security. Everyone else went through the revolving gate and joined the back of the queue.......They opened the wide gate specially for my wheels. The 2 gates had separate ramps down to security. There was no queue on my side.

And it was a beautiful, long, gently sloping ramp. I was good for all of 2 metres. But then I realised I would never forgive myself if I failed to make the most of it.

(Please note I stopped well short of the security staff and remained in full control of my chair at all times. Honest!)

The event was on The Terrace - overlooking the Thames and accessed through the maze of corridors (smelling of a cross between school corridors and hospital disinfectant). It was a fabulous networking opportunity - with suppliers, manufacturers, politicians, charities, and all sorts of people working in different areas of accessibility. To my huge relief they weren't people interested in using the right words but people with genuine interest in accessibility. (I should have had more faith in the RUS guys.)

We also got to hear Sandra Gayer sing - she is brilliant. And Steve Day (a deaf stand-up comic) was hysterically funny. He got it just right - full of 'Oh that is so true - and put brilliantly' moments. His observations on the "ARGH it's a person with disabilities, what do I say!!!" panic - inevitably followed by doing something daft - were priceless. Despite our totally different impairments we definitely have some similar experiences with this! I got to chat with him afterwards which made me laugh even more. His humour was almost like a verbal version of my stickmen. Which may probably be why I loved it.

I even spoke to someone from the Royal College of Art (apparently Environmental Health degrees aren't standard qualifications for artists/designers) but they seemed to like my work - who knows where that might lead?

My only regret is that I didn't get around to speaking to the relevant person from Sainsbury's - I was planning on suggesting that they take a stickman cartoon approach to disability awareness training/reminding. I reckon it would be awesome for helping them maintain the high standard of disability acceptance I have found at my local store.

But I'll get over that disappointment eventually.

After all, how many people can say they got to play roller-coasters in the House of Commons?

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